Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Visit to the Island of Sicily

Our 8th day of our Mediterranean cruise on the MS Ryndam took us from Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) to Palermo, Sicily. Ron was eager to see Sicily as he had never been there in his many visits to Italy. Of course, for me this cruise was my first time in Italy.

On Sunday morning, October 27th, I walked out to the deck for my early morning exercise and saw the lights of Isola di Ustica.  This tiny island is just 52 Km (32 miles) north of Sicily.  It has been used at various times as a prison for the political opponents of Mussolini, homosexuals, Yugoslav POW's during WW II, and convicted Mafia criminals.  We sailed by the lights of Ustica and, as we got closer to Sicily, I thought I could see a plume of smoke coming from Mt. Etna, an active volcano on the eastern end of Sicily.  Seems it had erupted the day before and was spewing a lot of lava and smoke so there was a lot of smokey haze in the air around Palermo which is about 150 miles from Mt. Etna.  Mt. Etna began erupting again in 2013 after 21 years of quiet.  Here is a video from You Tube of Mt. Etna erupting October 26, 2013:

Ron and I watched from the deck as we approached the port. The island had a rocky mountain nearly 2000 ft. high on it's western end, towering high above the city.

Approaching Sicily. That is Mt. Pellegrino next to the city of Palermo

Ron watching from the deck of our ship as we came into Palermo
The Port of Palermo with Mt. Pellegrino in the background
Our ship after we docked at Palermo

By 9:45AM, we were docked in the port of Palermo.   Ron had wanted to find an outdoor cafe table downtown to just relax and watch people.  However, we opted for a 3 hour excursion of  Panoramic Palermo to get an overview of the city and area.  We did get to see a lot in those three hours...

....including marketplaces

...and marvelous little squares beside ancient stone walls

...outdoor cafes....

...and flea markets...

...attractive old apartment buildings

...and churches transformed from mosques and minarets 

...more second-hand markets with a tradition stemming from Arabic souks that once flourished here  

The architecture reflected the numerous civilizations who have lived here: Byzantine, Roman, Norman, Arab....

I loved the look of this little hat shop

The famous Opera House Teatro Massimo 

Outside of the Teatro Massimo where the final scene of The Godfather III was filmed

The steps of Teatro Massimo

Driving up Mt. Pellegrino (lots of smoke to the east where Mt. Etna is erupting)

Saint Rosalia, the Patron Saint of Palermo

A view from the summit of Mt. Pellegrino

Looking down to Mondello, a beachside community of Palermo
Then we headed for the little beach district of Mondello where hundreds of sunbathers were enjoying the unusually warm sunny weather of late October.  We stopped to shop a little here, especially enjoying the fine gelato of Palermo.  I tried it in the Palermo style of a scoop of frozen gelato on a brioche bun.

Gelato on Brioche 

The temperature was a balmy 82 degrees (F)
We got back to the port at about 1:30PM and boarded our ship. We departed at 5:35PM for our next port of call: Olbia on the island of Sardinia (172 nautical miles to the northwest).  This was to be an alternate port after Tunis in North Africa was cancelled. We were at sea for the next day and would not arrive in Sardinia until October 29th.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. What a trip and wonderful photos. Did you meet any Mafiosi on the island?